TI Launches First “DaVinci” Video Processors

Submitted by BDTI on Mon, 12/12/2005 - 21:00

Last week TI unveiled its first “DaVinci”-branded processors, the TMS320DM6443 and the TMS320DM6446. These processors target home entertainment, surveillance, and other video applications. The two chips are similar in many respects. Each chip contains a 300 MHz ARM9E general-purpose processor core, a 600 MHz ‘C64x+ DSP core, and connectivity peripherals such as USB and Ethernet ports.

The differences between the chips reflect the fact that the ‘DM6446 targets both video encoding and decoding, while the ‘DM6443 targets decoding only. For example, the ‘DM6446 contains a video encoding coprocessor, but the ‘DM6443 does not. Similarly, the ‘DM6446 includes camera interfaces and other video-oriented inputs, but the ‘DM6443 does not. (Both chips include video-oriented outputs such as an S-video output.)

As explained in the September 2005 edition of Inside DSP, TI plans to support the DaVinci chips with specialized software, tools, and other development infrastructure. Most notably, TI plans to offer a range of video, audio, and speech software for the chips. TI’s initial offerings include evaluation versions of the MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, AAC, and G.711 codecs. TI has not said when production-ready versions of these codecs will be available, or when it will expand its codec offerings.

According to TI, the ‘DM644x can perform standard-definition decoding for popular standards such as MPEG-4 and H.264. TI states that the ‘DM6446 can also perform standard-definition encoding for H.264 baseline profile. (The ‘DM6446 also supports simultaneous encoding and decoding, but only for CIF-resolution video.)

The ‘DM6443 costs $30; the ‘DM6446 costs $35. These prices are quite modest compared to the prices for TI’s existing video-oriented chips, but they are significantly higher than the prices of competing chips. To cite two examples, the TriMedia-based Philips PNX1500 and the Blackfin-based Analog Devices ADSP-BF561 have prices around $20. (All prices are for orders of 10,000 units.) However, the DaVinci chips arguably offer higher levels of integration than these competitors. For example, the ADSP-BF561 does not include USB and Ethernet ports like those found on the DaVinci chips.

TI also recently announced two new chips targeting smart phones and PDAs, the OMAP2430 and OMAPV2230. Although these chips do not use the DaVinci brand name, they use the same basic architecture as the DaVinci processors: each of the OMAP chips contains a 330 MHz ARM1136 and a 330 MHz ‘C64x+. The new OMAP chips represent a shift in TI’s strategy. In the past, TI used different architectures for line-powered and mobile video applications. This forced TI to replicate its efforts in areas such as software development. By using the same architecture for line-powered and mobile video applications, TI has an opportunity to leverage its efforts across a wider range of applications.

TI is not the first company to use a single architecture for line-powered and mobile video applications, however. For example, both the TriMedia architecture and the Blackfin architecture are used in line-powered and mobile video applications. The fact that all three companies are taking similar approaches speaks to the increasing importance of digital video across a wide range of applications. As digital video becomes more ubiquitous, the success of processor vendors will depend on their ability to address the needs of many different applications simultaneously.

The ‘DM644x processors are sampling now, with full production expected in May 2006. The new OMAP processors are also sampling now, with full production expected in the second half of 2006. (The OMAP chips are available only to select high-volume customers.)

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